January 15, 2020

Peloton

At the end of the day I walk in my door, empty my pockets of everything I carried with me all day long, and change into my workout gear. I head straight for my Peloton bike every day without fail. Because I know that as soon as I clip into the pedals and start to spin, all the tension and stress that accumulated throughout the shift, will melt away. The fog of the day clears, and I have my energy back to hit the books and get ready for the next day. However, getting and keeping these habits isn’t always as easy as I wish it could be.

Growing up, I spent most of my time singing, dancing and acting – I had a few professional shows and minor TV spots under my belt before I realized at the end of high school that theatre and film wasn’t really what I wanted to do with my life. I had grown up watching MASH with my parents, and absolutely loved the character of Hawkeye and the medical field, but I never thought I would ever end up in medical school. It seems very far beyond my reach. I decided to take my nursing degree, became a registered nurse, and I worked on an intensive care unit, inpatient psychiatry unit, and general medicine unit. But I always wanted to see more and do more.

My first two years of medical school really pushed me academically and mentally. I didn’t take a lot of the sciences in my nursing degree (I took Political Science, and the History of Political Philosophy as my electives instead, which I absolutely loved), so I had to spend a lot of extra time studying what my fellow classmates already knew. I was tense, off balance, stressed, and I didn’t know how to take care of myself. My mind was tired, but my body had tons of energy to burn. Then I finally found my perfect outlet. I discovered spin classes, went to my first one at 05:30 in the morning before class one day, and I was HOOKED. I booked myself in for three to four classes a week, started running twice a week, and worked on weight training two to three times a week. I felt healthy, and like I could take on the world. Between all of my physical pursuits, I found spin to be the best way to keep myself on an even keel, and it was my favourite self-care time, even more so than when I would take the time to read a book before bed or go out with friends for dinner.

When I started my third year, I didn’t have time to make it to spin classes on a regular basis. There wasn’t even a gym with spin classes anywhere nearby, and my clinical schedule certainly didn’t leave me a lot of time to travel to find one. I could feel how much tension I started to carry around, and the workouts I did complete at my apartment gym just didn’t seem to burn the same energy as a spin class would. I started to gain weight and my study habits weren’t as productive as I wanted them to be. Even my husband started to notice that I wasn’t as happy-go-lucky as I normally am.

So, he surprised me one day – a brand new Peloton bike was scheduled to be delivered that week, and it was going to be all mine. I had the space cleared for it and a tentative workout schedule long before it arrived. When I finally had it set up in the apartment, I honestly couldn’t contain my excitement. I took my first class as soon as the delivery drivers left, and it was exactly what I needed.

I don’t know if it’s just the physical activity, or the great music they play during all of their classes, or the fact that when you work out on the bike, you’re working out with a massive fitness family from coast to coast. But there is a sense of euphoria when you clip in and see your name pop up on that leaderboard. And a sense of community when you share high-fives between fellow riders and the celebrate the successes of those you are riding with during that class. During my first ride, one rider celebrated their 2000th ride – that’s quite the feat, and I couldn’t wait to join that club of riders.

At the start of 2019, I joined a 2,019 in 2019 club. The goal: spin 2,019 miles in the year 2019. And for the first six months I was on schedule to make that goal with 1090 miles under my belt by the middle of July. I bought myself some Peloton gear, and I put my 2019 in 2019 keychain on my keys to remind myself every day of my goals and keep myself accountable. I felt good. But then I got thrown a curve ball and fell off the wagon. My father’s health began to decline more rapidly than it had been, I had a board exam quickly approaching, and I couldn’t find time to clip in. I would sit down on my couch after clinic, look at my bike, and decide I just didn’t have the energy to clip in that night – I would get to it tomorrow. Which turned into the next day, and then the day after that. My bike sat dormant and collecting dust for over two months. I could feel how much tension I started to carry around again, how my heart rate and blood pressure started to climb back up, and I didn’t sleep as well anymore.

I’m in my final year now, and I love the challenge of the electives I have planned. I’m excited to delve into the specialty I want to match into and want to study hard to achieve my goals. But I could tell that something was missing. And I could see exactly what it was every time I walked past my den. So, I gave myself the shake I probably should have given myself weeks ago and pushed myself to get back to what I knew would help me. I cleared the books I had piled around the base of the bike, hung up the coat in the closet instead of the bike’s handlebars, dusted off the seat and screen, and I got back in the saddle. My first ride back I could feel the ache in my muscles and lungs, I could feel my joints protest, and my months of inactivity came back to haunt me. A class that I would have found easy back in July, was a struggle. But it felt so good to push against that those pedals again – I could feel the wheel, and the wheel could feel me. The miles started to add up again, and my shoulders dropped down from around my ears.

It’s only been a week since I got back on my bike, and I already feel so much better. I feel stronger, healthier, and I can think clearly again. I finally got some solid studying in again, instead of bouncing between different topics, and basically not getting anything useful done. The Emergency Medicine Interest Group I run had a fantastic meeting, and we’ve set our direction and goals for the year. I have my focus and my drive back. I had an amazingly productive week, and I owe a lot of that success to my bike.

Even though I’m 816 miles behind target, I know I can finish the challenge I set for myself. I will get to my goal of 2,019 miles by December 31st if I set my mind to it. Because I know that when I feel healthy, and my mind and body are working together, it doesn’t matter what gets set in front of me, I can accomplish anything.

Amanda Ritchie, BScN